DATELINE: No Answers in I am Heath Ledger
Derik Murray has put together a series of “I am..” documentaries. They are intimate, unflinching, and hypnotic films about subjects with charisma and cult interest. Something went wrong along the way on this one called I am Heath Ledger.
So it is not surprising to find Heath Ledger being given the mythic figure treatment. He is no James Dean because he was filled with joie d’vivre and was a man with a cause and a mission.
Ledger said openly that he was on a mission to push his artistic feelings to the limit. He surrounded himself with his Australian friends from boyhood as an entourage for the most part, but there were no naysayers in the bunch. There was also no one to help him discipline himself. He was brilliant, a chess prodigy and potential major film director.
Going without sleep and pushing his physical limits, Heath Ledger was a whirling dervish of inspired talents. He was into music and film in particular, but showed unlimited artistic abilities. He took endless videos of himself, almost each snippet a movie in miniature. He was observing and teaching himself what reactions worked in a role.
He managed to improve with each role, but seemingly his happy demeanor hinted at a less satisfying deeper sense. His marriage fell apart, and he increasingly covered his beautiful body with tattoos. He used himself as a laboratory for life.
He spoke that he had limited time, like so many music and movie legends who went beyond before age 30. Was he prescient, or just a workaholic?
Heath left several stunning performances in Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight, but his colleagues do not line up to appear in this film tribute—only family and close friends are anguished and full of love. Naomi Watts and Ang Lee speak about him, but the film turns on the achievements of his friends, rather than on Heath finally.
The spin of final repeated clips at the end of the documentary without words may be more telling as the film seems to spin away too.